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12 Bad Leadership Qualities to Be Aware of

12 Bad Leadership Qualities to Be Aware of
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Have you ever heard of the “Peter Principle”? It’s the idea that in any business people get promoted based on their success at the job they’re currently in. This advancement only stops when they reach a level where they don’t excel anymore. They have gone beyond the place where they were competent, thus getting stuck at their level of incompetence.

This principle is based on the notion that success in one area does not necessarily correspond to success in other areas. This is how bad leaders are made, getting promoted to a position they just aren’t qualified for.

For example, just because someone is a good salesperson doesn’t mean that they can lead a sales team.

Take a minute to think about the best boss you’ve had and compare that to the worst boss you’ve had. Can you remember what it felt like to work for each? You can likely remember the feeling of working for each clearly. But can you identify the qualities that made the leader good or bad?

It’s important to be aware of bad leadership qualities when you see them as this will help you define your relationship with your own boss and improve your personal leadership qualities.

12 Bad Leadership Qualities

These are 12 bad leadership qualities to be aware of.

1. Conflict Avoidance

Whether it’s between department heads or team members, dealing directly and decisively with conflict is essential. By not dealing with it or just hoping that it will go away, a bad leader is just letting the situation fester. They will still have to deal with it, but by the time they do it will have morphed from a small conflict into a serious situation.

Good leaders know that they can’t make everyone happy and that making these hard decisions is in their job description.

2. Lack of Flexibility

Long gone are the days when you could adopt one management style for your whole career. Good leaders know when and how to adapt their management style. They also know their team members and understand how to motivate them individually. In today’s world, nothing says bad leadership more than an unwavering authoritarian boss.

3. My-Way-or-the-Highway Mindset

People like to think that they came into their leadership position due to their knowledge and expertise. While that may be true, it can lead to arrogance and inflexibility. Part of being a leader is inspiring the team to greater things. Unless they have the autonomy to work out problems on their own and, yes, even make mistakes, they won’t stay motivated.

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4. Rationalizing Poor or Unethical Conduct

It doesn’t matter how smart or talented a leader is; if they rationalize bad behavior from themselves or others, they are doomed to failure. It’s an easy thing to fall into, but rationalizing unethical business practices because of some short-term gain always catches up with them.

5. Lack of a Track Record

Success breeds success. While past performance isn’t a guarantee of future success, the fact is that hiring someone who has a proven track record of success is less risky than hiring someone who doesn’t.

6. Inability to Create or Conform to a Company Culture

Creating the right company culture serves to empower and uplift teams. It has company-wide implications, and if not embraced and utilized by the leader, there will be a negative effect on ROI.[1]

7. Poor Communication Skills

Leaders need to be able to effectively communicate in a variety of ways and with a variety of people. A person with poor communication skills cannot effectively share the company’s goals, mission or strategy to achieve them. Being able to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing, is a must for any leader.

8. Self-Centered

Besides being miserable to be around, self-centered people make poor leaders. If a leader is self-centered, they will take credit for the successes and place blame for the failures. Eventually this leads to staff becoming demoralized and the business failing.

The Rotary Club has a saying: Service Above Self, coined by Rotarian Arthur Frederick Sheldon. This means that “only the science of right conduct toward others pays. Business is the science of human services. He profits most who serves his fellows best.”[2]

9. Unpredictability

This can take many forms. A team needs to be able to predict what the boss wants in order to have any kind of autonomy doing their jobs. Without it, they will be forced into a system of micromanagement. Having to okay every decision for fear of reprisal is a failure of leadership.

Additionally, employees need a sense of stability in order to feel safe. If employees know that the boss’s reaction to bad news is dependent on their mood that day, it can stop the flow of vital information. It also means that they will constantly be walking on eggshells around that boss.

Finally, people who say or do things without thinking first make very poor leaders. The bottom line is that sending mixed signals is one of the bad leadership qualities that will doom a business to failure.

10. Not Forward-Thinking

Being satisfied with the status quo is never a good thing for a leader. It signifies that they are more concerned about surviving than growing and thriving. Good leaders are forward-thinking and keep their businesses at “the tip of the spear” of change and innovation.

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11. Know-It-All

Good leaders know just how much they don’t know. They have no desire to be right or even be the smartest person in the room. Good leaders know who and when to ask for advice.

Know-it-alls, on the other hand, rarely take advice or even input from anyone other than a superior. They do not take advantage of the huge amount knowledge and talent that’s available to them.

12. Not Focused on the Customer

A leader must be focused on the customer. They need to know exactly who they are serving, what their needs are, and how the company can work to fulfill those needs better than the competition. If the leader in your organization isn’t focusing on the customer, you can be assured that there’s a leader from a competitor that is.

Why People Stay With a Bad Leader

When you have a bad leader, the simple solution is to just quit and find another job, but it’s rarely as simple as that. People stay in stressful and unhealthy relationships all the time; the work relationship is no different. But why do they stay?

There are a myriad of reasons people stay working for a bad leader, but they are mostly tied to basic human psychological dynamics.

Feeling Emotionally Drained

When dealing with a high stress situation day after day, it becomes emotionally draining. They may want to find something else, but they just don’t have the energy to do it. It’s also not a good idea to quit a job without having another job lined up. However, it’s hard to get another job lined up when you’re emotionally exhausted all the time. Stressful work environments can also make it hard to envision more positive situations that may be out there.

Loss Aversion

Not wanting to give up something that you already have is another reason people stay with a bad leader. The thinking goes like this: “He/She is a lousy boss, but this might be the best job I can get.” In psychological terms, it’s a concept called “Loss Aversion.”

Love for the Job

Some people stay because they really love the job even though they hate the boss. The work is highly meaningful to them and gives them a sense of purpose and emotional satisfaction.

Hope of Change

Finally, there’s always that hope that the boss might change their ways. It rarely happens, but there’s still hope.

How to Deal with Bad Leadership

If quitting is not an option, there are some strategies you can use to deal more effectively with a bad leader. While the exact strategy to use depends on the specific bad leadership qualities of your boss, we do have some good general recommendations.

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Identify the Motivation

The first thing you want to do is observe. You want to identify your boss’s triggers and motivations. What is important to them?

Keep in mind that they may not be aware of their own motivations, but if you are observant, you can make reasonable assumptions on the following:

  • Are they worried about how they look to their colleagues or superiors?
  • What (if anything) seems to make them happy?
  • How do they measure success in themselves and others?
  • What do they care about most?
  • What frightens them?

By understanding a leader’s personality, motivations, and triggers, you can frame your interactions accordingly. For example, when presenting an idea to a leader who is a know-it-all, try to give them a way to “share” in the credit.

Instead of saying, “I think we could save money by changing how we do X and instead do Y,” you’d be better off phrasing it this way: “Hey, I’d like to get your opinion. Do you think we could save money on X if we change it to Y?” This will give them an out, and in their mind, they can take (at least partial) credit for the idea, so it is more likely to be implemented.

Don’t Sabotage

It can be tempting to try to “even the score” by working slowly, taking extra days off, or abusing mental health and sick days. However, all that does is make the situation worse. You need to have good working relationships with your coworkers as well as other leaders within the company.

You also don’t want to let it affect your work. Keep the quality of your work high. Unless you have another job lined up, you don’t want to lose this one.

Anticipate

Try to anticipate the leader’s wants, needs, and expectations. By doing this, you can stay one step ahead of them. This is especially helpful if your boss is a micromanager.[3]

Clarify

Good communication skills are a must for any organization. Unfortunately, one of the most common bad leadership qualities is poor communication skills. Instead of relying on a leader with poor communication skills, you need to take control of the situation.

There’s a tried and true method to when trying to get clarity from someone. Simply repeat back to them what they said and have them listen. “Okay, this is what I heard you say. Is that what you meant?”

If it is, you have achieved clarity; if it isn’t, it gives them a chance to explain further.

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This technique works well when you are assigned a new or different task as well as when handling disputes with the boss.

Take Care of Yourself

Poor leadership and bad bosses make for a stressful and exhausting workday. Don’t let it damage your physical or mental health. Do the following to take care of yourself.

Get Plenty of Exercise

One of the best ways to reduce stress is through exercise. It not only reduces stress, but it also keeps you healthy and away from the more harmful ways to reduce stress, like drinking, smoking, and drug use.

Keep a Healthy Diet

A high-stress work environment will take its own toll on your body. Stress is a known factor in both heart disease and stroke. Minimize these risks by maintaining a healthy diet.

Have a Support System

Having someone you can talk to is important any time you are in a stressful situation. Being able to vent and talk with someone always helps. You can bounce ideas off them, and they may give you advice or a perspective you haven’t considered.

Get Enough Sleep

The connection between quality sleep and heart health has been well established for some time now. However, our understanding of the interaction or cause and effect has evolved over time. It is now believed that poor quality sleep contributes to things like coronary artery disease, peripheral arterial disease, congestive heart failure, stroke, and heart attack.[4]

Conclusion

In an ideal world, we would all have good, competent leaders and managers, ones who uplifted us, helped us succeed, and made us feel valued. However, studies have shown that “75% of Americans say their boss is the most stressful part of their workday.”[5]

It’s obvious, then, that this is a very common phenomenon and one that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Your best bet is to learn how to deal effectively with bad leadership until either you or they leave. Regardless, always keep in mind that a job is never worth your health or family relationships.

Featured photo credit: You X Ventures via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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